Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Woman Convicted Of Stealing From Granddaughters Inheritance

MilwaukeeA Milwaukee woman has been convicted for stealing over $50,000 from her granddaughter’s inheritance.  Prosecutors say that Betty J. Coleman lied about her past criminal history in order to be named as her granddaughter’s legal guardian.  The young granddaughter had been the beneficiary of a $50,000 inheritance from Coleman’s deceased husband.  When Coleman was appointed guardian in April 2013 and later received the inheritance money in May she was told to invest $20,000 of it and to use the rest for her granddaughter’s benefit.  She ended up spending all of the money within five months of receiving it.  On Friday Betty J. Coleman was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison for misappropriating her granddaughters inheritance.

See Bruce Vielmetti, Woman sentenced after blowing granddaughter’s inheritance, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Man In A Disagreement With Attorney Over Withdrawn Will

BlumA man who is attempting to claim a deceased Staten Island millionaire’s fortune is in a disagreement with his attorney for withdrawing his Will.  Two years ago Anthony J. Allegrino filed a will claiming that he was the heir to Holocaust survivor Roman Blum’s $40 million fortune.  The disagreement started when Allegrino’s attorney, Martin Cohen, sent a letter to the court stating that he would be withdrawing the will.  Allegrino has since denied that he retracted his claim, and as a result of the conflicting information the parties will all be due back in court on August 26.  The sitting Judge has threatened to dismiss the case if the parties do not appear.  

See Mira Wassef, Man claiming millionaire’s fortune at odds with his lawyer over withdrawing will, SI Live, August 18, 2015.

August 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Son Squanders Inheritance Money Before Nephew Can Receive Share

InheritanceIn New Zealand a court has held that a son must account for squandering his nephew’s share of his father’s estate.  Justice Stephen Kos of the High Court in Wellington has held that Ashley Vernon and his wife Beverly Vernon will have to pay back the money that they owe their 19-year old nephew.  When Kenneth Vernon went to go live with his son in March 2006 he had an estate that was worth $330,000, and when he died in September 2011 only $1,400 was left in the estate.  “Justice Stephen Kos found that Ashley Vernon knew he was due to inherit only half his father's estate and set about forestalling that by transferring virtually all of it, while his father was still alive, to himself and his wife.” 

See Inheritance lost: Son spends estate money before nephew can get his share, Business Day, August 20, 2015.

August 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Portsmouth Officer Involved In Inheritance Scandal Contesting Termination

GoodwinI have previously discussed the story about the Portsmouth Police Sergeant who was controversially named as the beneficiary of a $2.7 million estate.  Police Sergeant Aaron Goodwin is now contesting his termination from the police force as a result of his involvement in the inheritance dispute.  Goodwin’s termination case is expected to go into an arbitration process that could last from six months to a year.  The Chief of Police Stephen DuBois fired Goodwin in June because of his relationship with Geraldine Webber, the wealthy decedent who named Goodwin the beneficiary of her estate.  This relationship included taking Webber out to drinks and even to a casino at one point.

See James A. Kimble, Portsmouth officer to contest firing after inheritance scandal, New Hampshire Union Leader, August 19, 2015.

August 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trust Exculpatory Clauses Have Limits

Trustee2The position of Trustee is a stressful one that carries with it a great amount of fiduciary responsibilities.  A trustee can be held personally liable for breaching the fiduciary duties that come with the position.  It is common for grantors to include exculpatory clauses that can protect a trustee from potential liability.  Grantors may include an exculpatory clause to try to encourage someone to take on the responsibility.  Exculpatory clause limits vary from state to state.  The Supreme Court in Nebraska has recently invalidated an exculpatory clause in Rafert v. Meyer, holding that the particular clause in question went too far.  The Court looked to the Nebraska Uniform Trust Code when it cited to the certain subjects that can limit a Trust’s exculpatory clause. 

See Luke Lantta, Limits Of Exculpatory Clauses In Trusts, Bryan Cave LLP, August 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

August 20, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Information About Fiduciary Bonds

SavingsIf a person is serving as a fiduciary they may want to consider obtaining a fiduciary bond, many States actually have statutes that require such instruments. Fiduciary bonds are legal instruments that act as insurance for beneficiaries when a trustee fails to perform his or her fiduciary duties. The surety (typically the bonding company or individual acting as surety) will pay the court a specified amount when fiduciary duties are breached. Some State statutes require fiduciary bonds, but even if they don’t people may still want them if there are concerns about the trustworthiness or financial status of the fiduciary.

The amount of bond a person needs to get depends on the amount of assets that the fiduciary is managing. Fiduciaries are generally responsible for acquiring bonds by looking for a bonding company. Most States provide exemptions to corporations, banks, and trust companies under the assumption that such entities have enough assets to pay back the beneficiaries.

See J. Robert Smith, Fiduciary Bonds- Who Needs Them?, The National Law Review, August 3, 2015.

August 4, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Probate Court Clerk Pleads Guilty To Stealing $232,000

JudgmentIn Savannah Georgia the longtime Chatham County Probate Court Chief Clerk Kim Birge has plead guilty to stealing $232,000 in a scheme. The Clerk confessed to raiding certificate of deposits belonging to other people for her own benefit. The government case alleges that the clerk used U.S. Mail and private commercial carriers as a part of the scheme. Kim Birge apologized to the clerk for her role in the scheme that involved stealing more than $750,000 in a three-year period. “I have asked God for forgiveness and I am asking this court for forgiveness as well.”

See Jan Skutch, Chief clerk pleads guilty to stealing $232,000 from Chatham County Probate Court, Savannah Morning News, July 31, 2015.

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On What You Need to Know Personally and Professionally In Estate Planning

CLE PictureThe American Bar Association is presenting a CLE entitled, Estate Planning: What You Need to Know Personally and Professionally, Wednesday August 5, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Eastern, online.  Here is why you should attend:

No matter how large or modest the estate, everyone needs a good plan in advance. Unfortunately, we can’t predict accidents, illness, or how long we will live. Good estate planning involves providing critical guidance and peace of mind for your clients. Join our experienced panel as they provide valuable advice on preserving the maximum amount of wealth possible.

Topics will include:

  • The basic nuts-and-bolts of an estate plan
  • Strategies for wealth preservation and gifting
  • Dealing with multiple representation and conflicts issues
  • Managing fiduciary responsibilities

July 31, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Attorney Who Embezzled $115,000 Sentenced To One Day In Jail

JudgmentAn 84 year old Cleveland Attorney who pleaded guilty to stealing $115,000 from a client’s estate has been sentenced to serve one day in jail. Gerald Cooper, who practiced law for 57 years, originally could have faced a 15 to 21 month sentence. The attorney was given a lighter sentence due to his age and health problems. The article indicates that Cooper has colon cancer and is starting to experience signs of dementia. Even though he will only serve a day in jail, this conviction does represent a blemish on Cooper’s record and reputation.

See Eric Heisig, Cleveland attorney who stole $115,000 from client’s estate gets one day in jail, Cleveland, July 29, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Caseworker Convicted Of Stealing $125 Thousand From Elderly Couple

JudgmentIn New Jersey, an Atlantic County Adult Protective Services caseworker has been convicted of helping to steal $125 thousand from an elderly couple.  William Price was indicted with five others for allegedly defrauding more than a dozen clients of up to $3.8 million.  The caseworker befriended the elderly couple back in 2006 when working for Adult Protective Services.  He recruited the couple for his co-conspirators who were ran a scheme that defrauded them of $800,000.  Price got $125,000 of the stolen money as part of his cut.  Prosecutors are recommending that Price be given a five year sentence, and he will also have to repay the money that he stole. 

See Andrew Ford, Elder care worker guilty of stealing $125K from seniors, Asbury Park Press, July 17, 2015. 

July 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)